Lethargy hits Klopp's Reds
International break seems to have curtailed Liverpool's league momentum
It appears that Juergen Klopp may have picked a fight with the wrong footballing authority.
He had railed against the English Premier League for leaving Liverpool somewhat disadvantaged in their battle for domestic supremacy with a congested New Year fixture list.
But a higher power is currently far more responsible for his side's shortcomings than playing successive games in the space of under 46 hours.
The German has never made any great secret of his displeasure at Fifa's scheduling process and knows all too well the after-effects that international breaks have upon the Reds' attempt to build momentum in their EPL title bid.
That it is not set to darken his mood again until late March, when he will hope that Liverpool's attempted assault has gained greater traction will be a blessing after seeing his side's run halted in a stalemate with Southampton.
International relations have rarely been high on the agenda of the Anfield faithful, either.
And it would have been reinforced after the battle of brinkmanship at St Mary's Stadium.
Klopp's irritation with World Cup qualifiers and friendlies is, similarly, understandable.
Last night, his players returned from exploits with their respective countries as though they were making baby steps into the title race, in stark contrast to their performances before the international break when they were blazing a trail at the league's summit.
Boasting both aerial presence and an effervescent attacking machinery, they continue to bear all the hallmarks of the imposing and swaggering team which strode valiantly to the top before the recent break in proceedings. All, except goals.
If this is where Liverpool's early season fairytale begins to unravel, Klopp cannot argue that he had not been amply forewarned.
Fifa's scheduling previously put the brakes on a five-game winning streak in all competitions for Liverpool until the beginning of last month.
Confronting opponents able to frustrate them in doubling up defensively has also not helped; clearly Southampton had taken notes of Manchester United's bus parking exercise at Anfield.
Even on the occasions when the hosts' back line found itself breached after the interval, the post-international break lethargy reared its ugly head for a Liverpool trident which would have previously been backed to comfortably plunder Fraser Forster's goalmouth.
Forster did his part in repelling numerous attempts but Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, a potent partnership for both club and country, still appeared to be ridden with hangovers in front of goal following their belated, long-haul returns.
The threat of Coutinho's potential absence from the game on the English coast had triggered inevitable concern but, in truth, the Brazilian and his compatriot would have been far better served in operating as impact substitutes instead of leading the line.
Klopp's attempt to right a similar wrong emerged far too late; Daniel Sturridge may be brimming with confidence after enjoying some overdue time in the on-field spotlight but continues to toil when presented limited opportunity at the fulcrum of Liverpool's attack.
Klopp drew on further options from his bench, but they arrived with little time to make a greater impact.
An additional but unspoiled four minutes of additional time saw Divock Origi's introduction appear a desperate a last roll of the dice than it should have proved.
For all Liverpool's complaints of what lies in store over the festive period, Klopp will be relieved that the next genuine threat to his side's title credentials currently lies some way off on the fixture list.
- SOUTHAMPTON: Fraser Forster, Cedric Soares, Jose Fonte, Virgil van Dijk, Ryan Bertrand, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Harrison Reed 77), Oriol Romeu, Steven Davis, Nathan Redmond, Charlie Austin (Jay Rodriguez 74), Sofiane Boufal (Shane Long 65)
- LIVERPOOL: Loris Karius, Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can (Daniel Sturridge 77), Sadio Mane (Divock Origi 90+2), Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho